Mezes Found In Istanbul Meyhane Restaurants

Picture of a plate of mezes (cold Turkish starters) in Istanbul's Meyhanes

by Erlend Geerts

in Restaurants

Let me introduce the mouthwatering mezes of Turkish cuisine. Well not exclusively Turkish, since meze is found in the former Ottoman Empire cuisines of the Balkan, Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Restaurants that are experts in mezes are called meyhane. A meyhane is a traditional restaurant which serves alcoholic beverages with mezes and traditional foods. Meyhanes are not a touristic attraction at all, although you may see many tourists in popular meyhanes. Most outgoing Turks visit their favorite meyhanes to catch up with friends every now and then. 

Most mezes are served as appetizers in the restaurants. In most cases, the waiter will come to your table and present all the mezes available on a big plate for you to choose from. Each member of the dinner party will select one or more. The mezes are then put in the middle of the table and shared. Toasted bread complements the various dishes. This article will guide you to choose and discover the taste that appeals to you best.

Ezme, a famous meze (Turkish starter) in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ezme, or chili tomatoe paste.

Chili Tomato Paste (Ezme)

This scarlet looking hot paste goes perfect with all dishes and especially grilled meat. It is simply made by mixing finely grinded and chopped ingredients such as fresh chopped tomatoes, olive oil, onion, green chili peppers, garlic, lemon, parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Grilled Eggplants with Yogurt (Patlıcan Ezmesi)

Another perfect spread. Charcoal grilled eggplants are mashed by skillful beats of knife. It is mixed with garlic, lemon, olive oil, yogurt, salt and black pepper. It should not be served cold since it may be an indication of not being fresh.

Grilled Eggplant Salad (Patlıcan Salatası)

Charcoal grilled and mashed eggplants are mixed with fresh or grilled tomato, green peppers and onion. Olive oil, vinegar, lemon and salt are added as dressing. This is one of my personal favorites among zillions of eggplant varieties.

Fried Eggplant Mix (Şakşuka)

Another eggplant delight! Cubes of fried eggplants are cooked with pre-boiled tomato sauce of tomato, garlic, salt and olive oil. Sometimes fried zucchinis and green peppers are added to the mixture.

Haydari Meze, or a mint yogurt dip.

Haydari Meze, or a mint yogurt dip.

Mint Yogurt Dip (Haydari)

Thick drained yogurt, or süzme as Turks call it, is mixed with grinded white cheese, fresh or dried mint, garlic, and salt. This extremely simple yet widely loved meze is a favorite companion for rakı, which is a non-sweet, anise-flavored spirit popularly consumed in Turkey and other Balkan countries.

Melon and Feta Cheese (Kavun ve Peynir)

A ripe honey-dew or galia melon is a popular summer snack, delicious with wine or rakı. If you cannot find beyaz peynir (white cheese), replace it with moist feta.

Broad / Fava Bean Mash (Fava)

For most fish lovers fava is a must on the table, so no wonder this meze is mostly served in fish restaurants. Broad beans are boiled with roasted onion and after it drains, the mixture is mashed and mixed with finely chopped dill or parsley. It is served cold with lemon and olive oil dressing.

Pinto Beans (Barbunya)

Like all Turkish olive oil dishes, barbunya is served and best when it’s cold which makes it a perfect nutritious meze. It is basically pinto beans cooked with onions, carrots, tomato and olive oil. Sometimes green peppers and potatoes are added, too. Some prefer to squeeze lemon juice on barbunyas before eating.

Artichoke (Zeytinyağlı Enginar)

Another very nutritious olive oil dish. The hearts of artichokes are cooked with peas, carrots and onions with olive oil. Some versions have fava beans or potatoes as well. It is of course served cold with some chopped dill.

Enjoy your meal – Afiyet olsun!

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